Sharing ideas on Education, Leadership and Life

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Assessments Should Focus on Learning and Growth


Once again the team at TeachThought came up with another great prompt about assessment. And once again the topic is complex with many different layers and sub topics.

I am not going to discuss the importance of formative assessments and summertime assessments, even though that is a worthy discussion. Nor am I going to discuss the issue of grading which is often linked to assessments. Just to let you know I  am a card carrying member of the Teachers Throwing Out Grades group, if that helps you at all.

But Rather I want to focus on what we should be assessing and what is the purpose.

Here is a post I wrote in 2010 and admittedly a lot has changed since I wrote it

"I had the chance on the day before Thanksgiving to Skype with two colleagues on the topic of assessment. Books have been written on this topic and I maybe one day I will write one about assessment and grading. However for the purpose of this blog I would just like to mention some Assessment Do’s and Don’ts. By no means is this a complete list and I encourage you to comment and add to the list. 

Assessment Do’s

*Assessments need to incorporate Critical thinking skills and other higher order skills
*Assessments needs to demonstrate understanding and how to apply it - I often have my students right a guidebook about something as a way of demonstrating understanding 
*Assessments should be tools that inform Student learning 
*Assessments need to assess the lifelong skills we want our students to learn

Assessment Don’ts

*Assessments should be more than just fill in the blanks which test memory and not skills 
*The purpose of Assessments should not be for the purpose of “Got You” 
*Assessments need to match what skills were taught in class not the other way around (We should not teach to the test) 

Again there is a lot more and the issue of assessments is very much related to the issue of grades which I as well as others have written about.

Bottom line the assessments need to be a tool to measure learning and growth and not as a way that set students up for failure. Assessments need to be used by the teacher as well as the student to guide student learning. Assessments are a tool not an end to themselves "

One thing that I didn't mention in my list is that assessments need to measure and show effort. A student who tries but has some challenges should be recognized for that effort.

The bottom line still sums it up. We all need standards and benchmarks. We all need feedback and know that we are on the right track. We all need to feel good about ourselves and see that there is a greater good or goal.

There is a lot more to say but that to me should be the focus and the goal of Assessments.


  1. Thanks for the focus on growth. I just saw a tweet about using the word "yet" -implying that assessment just tells you progress on the journey, not the destination. I appreciate your thoughts.

    1. Thank you for your comments.
      I also recently read a book that said the two words a teacher should never want to hear are "I'm Done"

  2. I also like to give my kids a chance to tell me anything else they learned beyond the test I designed. It's fun to see what stood out to them!

    1. Michele,
      Yes thats a great idea
      Thank you for sharing

  3. It seems that assessment is the easiest point of entry for the non-educators. We know from experience there is as much art as science involved in educating children; we can see growth not captured in those high stakes assessments outsiders push on us.